Reading has defined me all my life. So when I come across a book titled How Reading Changed my Life, I know that I will probably like it. After all there is little that is more interesting to me than talking about books.
This is a charming book. It is small in that it is a mere 96 pages long, but the author manages to use that space discuss a wide variety of topics. It is divided into five chapters over which Anna Quindlen explores everything from childhood reading to a brief history of printing to worries that the internet will put an end to physical books to literary snobbery, reading habits and reading lists
She begins by talking about her childhood, hours and days spent in a cozy chair as she devoured book after book while other kids ran around and played outside. She says,
“The best part of me was always at home, within some book that had been laid flat on the table to mark my place, its imaginary people waiting for me to return and bring them to life. That was where the real people were, the trees that moved in the wind, the still, dark waters.”
“There was waking, and there was sleeping. And then there were books, a kind of parallel universe in which anything might happen and frequently did, a universe in which I might be a newcomer but was never really a stranger.”
I felt an instant kinship with her at this point, because this is the way my childhood went as well.
Her parents weren’t avid readers, so she didn’t have many books at home. She describes vividly how it felt the first time she walked into a house that was filled with books. She talks at some length about all the books she has loved over the years. While I have read and loved very few of the books that she mentions, that it no way diminished my interest in her discussion of them.